Accessing the digital village!
On the face of it the UK is a developed country. We have generally enough food, we have freedom of expression, we are generally well housed , we have free state provided healthcare and basic education. These are some of the hallmarks we traditionally associate with a developed or first world country!
The criteria to assess how developed a country may be is rapidly changing. With the advent of the digital economy and the global village, we are now seeing the world becoming increasingly connected. Barriers to information exchange and trade provided by traditional political boundaries of countries and local governments are not in general of great influence. Technology giants such as Apple, Google, Huawei and Microsoft have been the generally drivers of the new hallmark of digital connectivity.
Applying the hallmark of digital connectivity to measuring the UK's fitness for purpose in the global village is a relative measure. We are doing better than most but there is a still parts of the community that are experiencing a digital desert. The UK has approximately 750,000 school age children without access to a computer linked to the internet at home (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20899109). With the average size of household taken as 4 (for instance) that is 3 million people who are missing out on the digital revolution.
The estimate of 3 million does not include the elderly and other adults without access to the internet. This is a problem as increasingly we see services like Jobcentre Plus, Taxes, Benefits and interactions with service providers such as councils and banks go online. Seeing a "local face" behind a counter is increasingly rare.
Addressing this problem has been the "job" (more like Herculean task) of Martha Lane Fox (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10575266). There is now a digital advisory board ( http://digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/2012/04/25/introducing-the-digital-advisory-board/ ) to coordinate the plan. This has taken nearly two years to set up judging by the time stamps on the news stories and announcements. Digital in the title therefore does not necessarily mean it will be rapid.
How to get the 3/4 million children online? Problems identified include access to computers and access to an internet connection at home. The premise of the survey is a need for a computer (probably desktop) for access sites for homework and learning. Up to Christmas of 2012 saw a massive leap in the sales of Tablets in the UK with 2012 been described as the year of the Tablet (http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9781000/9781351.stm). For the majority of the use needed for after school tasks a tablet is all that is required for most pre-Key Stage 3 tasks. An Android seven inch tablet operating on the 4.0 release can now be found on sale for £60 pounds, less than the cost of a pay as you go mobile phone. The internet connection is the tricky problem. How to provide cheap cost effective connection to reduce the digital desert! More thoughts on this will appear in a related blog at (http://ukonlinelearningcommunities.blogspot.co.uk/).
2013 is going to be an exciting year. The year we become connected. One experiment of mine in digital connectivity is the Haverhill Online Learning Community. Visit and join the groups or community and help us make a better digital experience!